I pulled the Eight of Wands and The Chariot (Cancer) as the cards of the day. It wasn’t a surprise. It has been a tradition of mine to travel on the 26 January; even before I moved to Australia, which has it as the first public holiday of the year.
This time though, what caught my attention was The Chariot card.
Along with The Magician, The Chariot was one of the first few tarot cards that I liked and understood. Or so I thought.
When I first started learning tarot based on the images, I associated The Chariot with travelling. Obviously, as the guy on the classic Rider Waite Smith tarot deck is riding a chariot. He is on the move or about to move. So is the witch who is riding the bike on the Everyday Witch Tarot deck.
But the Chariot on the deck I used for the reading today, the Moon Void Tarot, shows pages and pages of papers. Each one dated by month. July 2016, August 2016 and so on. There is a hand holding a pen writing on one of those pages. As if the person is scheduling and making plans. I don’t see anything that resembles travelling, which ironically fitted my situation of being unable to travel this time.
Alas, it got me curious about the artist’s interpretation of the card, and I dug through my piles of to-read books and found the guide book for the deck which I bought separately (one of the best tarot related decision I made so far: When in doubt, get the guide book). It says:
“…connect with our momentum, as we develop a clear vision, we begin to take action. …daily practice becomes the structure that takes us from one phase of life to the next. Small steps in physical reality will be met by large leaps from the Universe, but first, (you) must begin.”
I then went through The Spacious Tarot deck wondering how The Chariot is depicted there as I don’t think I have ever pulled this card from that deck. The image on the card itself reminded me of the Milford Sound in New Zealand South Island. Again travel related. But the mini-guide book offered an explanation closer to one given by the Moon Void above:
“…define exactly what is it that you want to do. What hard things do you need to do at this time? Affirm that you are capable and go do what you need to do.”
Wow. Reading it was like peeling another layer of The Chariot card.
The one that I didn’t even know existed.
The one about taking inspired actions.
I love it when that happens. That is also why I am love learning about tarot. The more I understand, the more interesting it becomes.
I just got done with the night shower and poured myself another glass of red, while waiting for my green-tea paste face-mask to dry so I can wash it off.
Let me tell you about our first day of the farm stay ━
After a 3-hour drive from Melbourne, going around almost four empty towns that reminded me of Timaru in New Zealand and after a short pit stop for double patty burgers in the summer heat peak, we reached the farm we will be staying at for a week.
The farmhouse looked rundown from the outside, but it had a rustic-charm in the inside. The house, as to how Fafa and I agreed on, has a soul. It is precisely the kind of home we love – complete with the wooden floorboards with a creaking sound, huge rustic windows adorned with french curtains, vintage-tiled bathroom floor and a clawfoot tub, rattan bed frame and plenty of mazes to give us the illusion of extra space.
So far, we have gone out to play in the backyard (frontyard?), fed the chickens, cooked dinner (instant noodles with buttered eggs) — accompanied by a delicious locally-sourced glass of red wine.
While Fafa watched the boxing day test match between Australia and India, I finished reading The Alchemist. What a book! I am so going to re-read it again, but not immediately since I have brought another five books to read during the trip. Right now though, I am going to wash my face, pour myself another glass of red, turn the TV on and binge-watch my favourite local SBS Food channel until we both fall asleep on the big and super cozy sofa.
Is there anyone who doesn’t experience travel fails? Of course not.
It’s just that most of the time I intentionally choose to write about the good experiences of my travels instead of the travel fails.
Today I am going to share my travel fails here in the hope that maybe you too can relate, perhaps we can bond and or you can learn something from it. Or maybe you can judge me for being travel-stupid.
Not Liking The Place I Traveled (Vietnam)
Unlike most of the places I deliberately choose to travel to, I chose Vietnam because it’s only a couple hours away from Singapore. Also, lots of people rave about it. There was never an intrinsic, cultural pull personally. I was slightly hoping I’d be pleasantly surprised once I arrived.
I went with my cousins and had a good time with them there, but still, I was not too fond of Vietnam. Not even after sailing on the Mekong River. And after sipping Vietnamese drip coffee for three days in a row, I was so ready to go back.
Vietnam, I could have done without.
Some of my friends define Vietnam as the place to go while visiting South East Asia, kind of like how France is in Europe. There must be a base to it, might be because of the war stories, but it’s a generalization.
South-East Asia is much more than in Vietnam. It’s the potluck of Singapore, the richness of religious culture in Malaysia, the Hindu influence of Cambodia, and let’s not forget the lush rainforest of Borneo Indonesia.
From this experience I learn not to travel to a place that doesn’t “ping” me from inside. It might be an obvious choice for others, but if I am are not feeling it, I should keep my travel fare for some other places I am being called to visit.
Missed The Flight (Jakarta)
The flight was at 8:15 AM, and I reached the check-in counter by 6:50 AM. It’s not late, but this time everyone else had checked-in. Since I was late by a max of ten minutes (the check-in counter closed 90 mins before the departure), the check-in counter lady refused to check me in.
I tried to reason with her so much that I was on the brink of tears. Unfortunately, she wasn’t in the mood to show a single drop of compassion. I had to buy another ticket for a flight that left 45 minutes later than the first flight. When I passed by the waiting room at 8:20 AM, I could see my actual plane was still waiting to be boarded. Gah!
I wanted to hate that uptight Air Asia lady, but I stopped myself because at least I was still going on vacation.
From then onwards I have become one of those people who reach airport hours before the booking counter even opens. And I treat myself with a pre-holiday drinking inside on your free time, once I have checked-in.
Visa Denial aka Most Expensive Travel Fails (New Zealand)
My boarding pass was torn up in front of my very own eyes for not having a valid visa to layover for two hours in an airport in Australia before heading to our travel destination, New Zealand. Who knew that we needed a visa just to layover in the airport? I certainly didn’t. And to find out two hours before flying, it felt like a death sentence to my travel dreams. I went back fighting tears and dragging my luggage, which seemed to be heavier now than I was dragging it back home. Fafa cheered me up with coffee, and, later that night, booze. In the end, we managed to exchange it for a direct flight and reached Auckland two days later. Phew!
If you think I am going to conclude this part with a lesson learned is to check on layover visas, you are wrong (because of course, that one is obvious).
The lesson I learned is to have someone try to cheer you up when you are feeling super sad, someone who cares enough about your happiness to stay up all night to sort out the problem while you were passed out after drowning your sorrow in copious amonut of cider. It matters a lot, more than going to New Zealand itself.
Keep Losing Stuff (Japan)
I am not that good at keeping track of my things, especially the random ones. My mind works in an orderly manner and nothing else, which is why I have a travel checklist, and also why I always check my passport like 15 times before I reach the airport, but I misplace things.
I already made my peace in losing small things here and there while travelling, but the hard part is when I lose something precious or when I have the strong feeling that I have lost more things during my travel.
Among the things I have lost, the most memorable one was my first Kindle, which I went to so much trouble to get for myself for my birthday, years before Kindle was even a thing in Asia. I loved it with every fibre of my bookworm being, and I left it on the Delta Air Lines, flying back to Singapore from Japan.
I didn’t panic at first, as I was sure I would get it back. After calling and emailing Delta, and a few weeks of an unsatisfactory response, I came to terms with it.
My first eBook with 35+ self-help collections inside it was gone forever. I only hope that it made the person who took it into a better person after reading it. They have my self-help blessings.
Misplacing Passport (Netherlands)
My craziest moment of losing something was when I realized I couldn’t find my passport after I reached the immigration counter. I ran back to the arrival gate. Begged the stewardess to let me in because I thought I left my passport in the back of the aeroplane seat. Fortunately, she was kind enough to let me inside the flight again to collect my passport.
Retrospectively, it was a minor incident, but imagine if the flight had flown somewhere. I would be stuck in the airport, like Tom Hank in The Terminal.
Ever since, I always do a 4P check before leaving any plane. Passport, Phone, airPod and (travel) Pillow. Also, I stop keeping anything inside the back pocket of a plane seat.
“This is it! We are on a pilgrimage, the Australian way”
I excited told Jik at the airport while waiting for our flight to Ayers Rocks. She stared back at me as if I had lost it, before getting back to her laptop screen. It has become a routine, pretty much how we usually start our girl trips, with me saying some absurd things and her ignoring it. But this time, I was serious. We were going to Uluru.
I feel like Uluru called me.
The first time it caught my attention was in a bookstore in New Zealand, of all places. Once we came back home, I mulled over visiting Uluru for a while, forgetting about it for some time, before being called again by the mystical rock. This time, by a blog post. I decided to give it a visit, even if just by myself, but at the last minute, Jik joined in.
Hence our conversation in the airport waiting lounge above. Four hours later, we reached the small airport of Ayers Rock and hopped into the resort bus immediately afterwards.
Uluru was magnificent! I can’t explain the attraction of a huge rock. I came prepared that travelling to see a rock, one stone, might be a little over-kill, but that mental preparation wasn’t required after all. I was all teary eyed when I saw a glimpse of Uluru from the plane earlier.
We went to Queenstown downtown today. It was crowded and happening. We started with hot cocoa at Patagonia continued with early lunch at Taco Medic because for some reason we were hungry again by 10AM.
I loved the Bata Fish Taco, which they claimed to be it’s the best taco in the world, but I think Sydney’s taco is much better.
We then went to Cookie Muncher Cookie Bar where I dunked warms cookies into the cold milk. It’s so yummy! But not again, not as good as Mustache in Auckland. Next stop was Glassons a local fashion brand where I easily found clothing I like. I bought five items and would have bought more if only I wasn’t lazy enough to try in the fitting room.
I also got a Pahua shell as an anniversary gift from Fafa. LOVE it!
We cruised around lake Wakatipu which was beautiful and had been the highlight of today.
I am curious about people’s homes. I often wonder what their life looks like from the inside of their home. Does their home represent their characters? And I get more intrigued when I travel to a new place; about the locals, their lifestyles, and day-to-day lives, including their homes.
This interest of other cultures’ homes started when I took a peek into the Parisian living quarters from the same street where our Eiffel Tower facing hotel was located. I wanted to see what a typical French home looks like, and I even planned to master the French language to befriend a French girl who would invite me to stay in her apartment with her friends or family, not unlike the girl in Lessons from Madame Chic. This elaborate, and what I thought of as brilliant, plan stopped when I found out French words have genders in the 4th week of French class.
Thankfully, Airbnb was founded, and a whole new world opened up for me.
I love to Airbnb when I travel. When we went to Europe last year, I managed to turn my cousins into AirBnB-ers. We did the Airbnb Europe edition by staying in nine different apartments, from Germany to Spain. It also satisfied my curiosity about French living, though it wasn’t in Paris. I stayed in a walk-up old apartment building in Nice. I continued staying in all sorts of strangers’ homes from Shanghai to Queenstown.
Airbnb somehow makes the travel experience feel more authentic for me.
Located at the cauldron of a dormant volcanic mountain, Rotorua enjoys warmer weather than its neighbors. They had their last snow fifty years ago and that didn’t even last a day. We spent some time roaming around the city before settling in for the night at the best bed and breakfast I have ever stayed in. Every time we passed a certain part of town, despite my repeated explanation of the sulfur smell, Fafa was convinced that someone nearby had farted. So on our last morning there, I took him to the fart smell source, Rotorua geyser Whakarewarewa, one of Rotorua’s geothermal sites, located close to the city center, so that we could enjoy our time without feeling rushed to catch the bus back to Auckland.
The first thing that caught my attention, other than the rotten egg smell, was the boiling mud pools. Apparently, the mud is rich in minerals, which makes it very good for the skin. They even have SPAs in Rotorua that cater for people to soak in it. You can also buy the mudpack to take home and pop it over your face, far from the weird looks from others.
And there was the geyser, Pohutu which means, “big splash” (the biggest one in the southern hemisphere). It is the main geyser of the area, spurts up to twenty times per day, and can reach heights of up to 100 feet, a seriously awesome natural phenomenon to see.
Due to the wind, we got a little wet from the splash, though by the time it got to us it was no longer hot. I got reminded of Vivian, who used to put the sulfur water on her face as a quick beauty fix in Hakone, and nothing to argue here, she has flawless skin.
The tour guide explained about Maori carvings and the geothermal activities on this site. He told us that every year they would offer Maori carving scholarships to four male students to study traditional carving. Once they graduate, they usually go back to their hometown to continue the work and teach their own tribe. Interested to learn about these carvings? One of the requirements is you need to be a Maori descendent, even if only one sixteenth, and also you must be a male. Guess I am stuck with scrapbooking for now!
We didn’t spend much time at the Rotorua geyser site; I mean, how long can you stare at the boiling mud pool, right? If I had more time I would definitely stay more than a night in Rotorua and visit the Wai Ta O Po for the colourful geothermal lake and try the mud bath. This time, I only got myself the mud face mask and have been scaring people off ever since.
Located up the hill, City Lights the Rotorua BnB, was a fifteen-minute drive from the city center. It was a rectangular house with a red door. We were greeted by the owner, Naomi, and her adorable dog, Jelly. She showed us around and by the time she left, I had fallen in love with the place.
I have wanted to stay on a farm ever since I played Harvest Moon in high school (it’s sorta like Farmville, only better) and competed against schoolmates. There was a period of time when we reported how many cows, chicken, and sheep we had every morning once we reached the classroom. Retrospectively, it was not the best use of our education money, but hey, at least we were pretending to be the most successful entrepreneur among ourselves, though the only job available was farming. Later, when Farmville became famous, I played it for a while at work, before I got bored and started reading blogs instead while still harboring the desire to stay on a farm. So you can imagine my excitement when we “accidentally” stayed at one.
We booked our accommodation, a backpacker hostel, in the Rotorua city center. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I guess, at the last minute Agoda called to inform us that the place was not available and they would like to help us to book another place. With half an hour left before checking-in, we booked the City Lights Boutique Lodge.
I really liked the living room. It had a tall bookshelf and a fireplace surrounded by big sofas for you to snuggle in. It also had a small study table with a laptop in the corner, but I doubt you would want to think about the outside world when you are here.
The bedroom was marvelous. It was a comfortably sized room with a glass door that overlooked the entire town and glass windows facing a small garden and the farm. The bed was so soft, it reminded me of Westin’s. In the bathroom, they didn’t put the four identical-harsh to your skin-but still worth stealing toiletry bottles we usually find in every hotel. It was all-natural yummy smelling Kiwi made products and all I can say is that it was better than my own skincare range.
We also explored the farm, actually, it’s not really like Farmville since there were only three pet black alpacas (alpacas are like a llama, only cuter) whose wool has been shed and collected for the last four years to be made as blankets, but the neighbors had sheep and cows. So yeah, almost Farmville like.
In the evening, we went to downtown Rotorua for dinner and drinks at this new establishment called the Eat Streat. By the time I got drunk (good wines were cheap in New Zealand) and came back, it was dark and we could see the whole town lit up from our bedroom and thus the name, City Lights.
The next day, Naomi made us breakfast. There were cheese, fruits, homemade muesli, yogurt, bread, the whole spread. It was served with juice and coffee of our choice. Let me tell you, her flat-white was the best cup of coffee I had in New Zealand. It made me stop drinking coffee in Auckland for a while because nothing came close to hers. We spent some time chitchatting about our lives. I didn’t take a picture of the delicious breakfast spread because it felt politically incorrect to Instagram food prepared by someone right in front of them. Unless they are your partner because they must have tolerated your impoliteness from the beginning.
Good companions with tasty breakfast served in front of a breathtaking view. It was a memorable morning.